Attack of Sydney Harbor

Jim Hathaway

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Picric acid? Oh lovely!

Yes, I remember it in an article in a diving magazine I read in the 70s and filed in the cobwebs of my mind for some reason.
Halifax explosion was something, I have a friend who lives there-I was impressed that an anchor from one of the ships was found 2km inland!
 
Dec 2, 2000
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I'm rather surprised the hear that the Japanese were still using this stuff in World War Two when it had been almost been completely replaced with safer explosive fillers elsewhere. Perhaps I shouldn't be since it's not unknown for some military arms to hang on to some old stocks long after their safe shelf lives have expired.

Hell, the U.S. military still has stocks of the Second World War bombs filled with the old Compostion B fillers extant as late as 1967. Some of these weapons played a tragic role in the Forrestal fire. They had been recieved from an ammunition ship...which was understandably happy to be rid of them...after first being scrounged up from outdoor storage in the Phillipines.
 
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I don't know if it would be so much a question of the condition of the ammunition in this case. Most all of it was probably of recent manufacture and wouldn't have time to decompose unless it was improperly stored. I'm thinking that somewhere along the line, it was probably improper handling of the ammunition. It wouldn't be the first time something like that happened...or the last.

I once saw a photo of a U.S. destroyer that had her bow blown off while in port. I don't recall the ship's name, but if I recall correctly, the cause was mishandling of the spigot morter rounds used in the Hedgehog launcher.
 

Jim Hathaway

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"Most all of it was probably of recent manufacture and wouldn't have time to decompose unless it was improperly stored. I'm thinking that somewhere along the line, it was probably improper handling of the ammunition."
Mutsu and Nagato were 22 years old at this time, and there probably were existing stocks of the ammunition, so it is difficult to know, but I always wondered about static charge.
BTW, OT, my fiance sent me a birthday gift from Tokyo, 3 large color books on Yamato and Musashi-
One shows the building through computer drawings, beautifully rendered!
The second shows details of Yamato, and the building of the sets for the recient film.
The 3rd one shows the intimate details of the 1/10th scale model of Yamato, at the Yamato Museum at Kure.
If you've never seen it, it is magnificent- here is a link to photos-
http://www.oshipee.com/omami/e-photo-yamatomuseum.htm
 
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>>Mutsu and Nagato were 22 years old at this time, and there probably were existing stocks of the ammunition, so it is difficult to know, but I always wondered about static charge.<<

Uhhhhh...yeah, that could ruin your day as well. It would be risky to speculate as to the age of the stocks. While it was a time of war, we don't know how quickly the main battary stocks for these ships were being used. Since direct ship to ship combat between battleships was a bit on the rare side, the guns which tended to get the most use were the ones that were useful for anti-aircraft use.

What's interesting here is that some of the shells being loaded aboard the Mutsu at the time apparantly included the anti-aircraft shells which had a couple of thousand submunitions within the shell casing. As I understand it, this ammunition was a contemporary wartime development so there's no question of some of the ammunition being new. The propellant is another matter. These guns used bagged charges and if left sitting around over time, certain volitile componants tend to decompose giving inconsistant performance. (This same issue caused problems for the Iowa's in the mid-80's.) Also, bagged charges tended to have black powder in the bottom as a trigger.

Guess what happens if you get a spark into the pouch of black powder which in turnis next to several hundred tonnes of cordite!
 

Jim Hathaway

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The Yamato film had a sequence of her shooting at the attacking flights with her main battery (the AA rounds mentioned), that must have been quite a sight.
It's purpose was to break up massed formation, but at the very least, I would imagine it would make the pilots want to go back to the carrier to change;-)
I am hoping to get to Eta Jima to see Mutsu's turret on my next visit to Japan, also hopefully to the Yamato museum.
 
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The round used by the Yamato was the "3 Shiki tsûjôdan which you can read about at http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WNJAP_18-45_t94.htm

It was a nasty beast filled with 900 incendiary submunitions. In concept, it was a lot like a shotshell with the submunitions spreading out in a 20° cone with the shell itself adding shrapnel to the mess when exploded by the bursting charge.

In practice, it appears not to have been all that successful. U.S. Navy pilots who saw it likened it more to a spectacular fireworks display then anything else. I don't think it's hard to see why. Main battary turrets on battleships don't train and elevate all that quickly so it wouldn't have been all that hard to make sure you were somewhere else when seeing the thing train in your direction.
 

Jim Hathaway

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Interesting about one of Musashi's shells detonating in the tube, the shells probably had a light case since they were designed to fragment and disperse submunitions.
Interesting how many designs of peacetime turn out to be useless in time of war- the British Unrotated Projectile, and the Holman Projector come to mind. (My coastal Forces book maintains the main use of the Holman projector was to fire potatoes and cans in beery interflotilla parties)
Did you catch the bit about utilizing a Welin breechblock? I wonder if the davit manufacturer was the patent holder.
 
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>>Did you catch the bit about utilizing a Welin breechblock?<<

I seem to recall it. I wouldn't be surprised if Welin Breechblock and Welin Davits are all from one and the same company. If all they did was build davits, they wouldn't be able to make much of a living as there are only so many ships to go around and plenty of competitors. This practically screams for diversification into other fields. The armaments industry was a thriving concern then as now, so it would have been foolish to ignore the market.
 

Jim Hathaway

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Or perhaps a spin off from a special project to use a gun to launch the desperate survivors from the deck of a sinking liner to a lifeboat waiting a safe distance away;-)
I will have to do a search and see what else Welin was in to- it would be interesting to see
 

Jim Hathaway

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Since we started on midget submarines, and since tomorrow is the 7th, I thought this might be a good place to post this dispatch.
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DD139/A16-3(759)/
U.S.S. Ward Pearl Harbor, T.H.
December 13, 1941.

From: Commanding Officer.
To: The Commandant, Fourteenth Naval District.
(1) Commander Destroyer Division EIGHTY.
(2) Commander Inshore Patrol.

Subject: Sinking of a Japanese Submarine by U.S.S. Ward.



While patrolling Pearl Harbor Entrance on Sunday, December 7, 1941, the U.S.S. Ward attacked an unidentified submarine in the Restricted Area off the Harbor.
The facts are as follows:


At 0637 the Officer-of-the-Deck said, "Captain come on the bridge". A conning tower with periscope of submarine was visible. She was apparently headed for Pearl Harbor trailing the U.S.S. Antares. The Antares was standing toward the channel entrance towing a lighter.

At 0640 the attack was started. The Ward bore down on the submarine while accelerating from 5 to 25 knots.

At 0645 the Ward opened fire with No. 1 and 3 guns and began dropping depth charges. One shot was fired from each gun. The shot from No. 1 gun missed, passing directly over the conning tower. The shot from No. 3 gun fired at a range of 560 yards or less struck the submarine at the waterline which was the junction of the hull and conning tower. Damage was seen by several members of the crew. This was a square positive hit. There was no evidence of ricochet. The submarine was seen to heel over to starboard. The projectile was not seen to explode outside the hull of the submarine. There was no splash of any size that might results from an explosion or ricochet.

Immediately after being hit the submarine appeared to slow and sink. She ran into our depth charge barrage and appeared to be directly over an exploding charge. The depth charges were set for 100 feet.

The submarine sank in 1200 feet of water and could not be located with supersonic detector. There was a large amount of oil on the surface where the depth charges exploded.

The attack was made at 0645 which was before Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japanese planes.

A dispatch by voice transmission was sent to Commandant, Fourteenth Naval District at 0645 which stated:
"We have attacked, fired upon, and dropped depth charges on a submarine operating in defensive sea areas."


The performance of duty by the officers and men during this attack was in accordance with the traditions of this service.

PERTINENT INFORMATION
Appearance of submarine: Cylindrical tube about 80 feet long with small oval shaped conning tower. It had no deck. it was painted dark green and was covered with moss indicating that it had been at sea for a considerable period.

Behavior during attack: In spite of the five minute run from the time of sighting and time of attack, the submarine apparently did not see or detect the Ward. It was making from 8 to 10 knots and was apparently bent on following the Antares into port. Exact distances are not known but at the time of the first shot the range was not more than 100 yards and for the second shot the range was 50 yards or less. The submarine passed very close to our stern.

/signed/
W.W. OUTERBRIDGE



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DD139/A16-3(793)/
U.S.S. Ward Pearl Harbor, T.H.
December 23, 1941.

From: Commanding Officer.
To: Commander Destroyer Division EIGHTY.

Subject: Attacks on Submarines, report of.



The following is a summary of attacks made upon submarines by this vessel between the dates of 7 and 17 December 1941.
DATE TIME SUMMARY NO. OF CHARGES
12-7-41 0640 Fired 2 shells at and dropped 4 depth charges on enemy submarine on surface. Sank submarine. See Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Ward Letter of 13 December 1941 to Commandant, 14th Naval District 4
12-7-41 0705 Dropped 5 depth charges on sonic contact. Sighted black oil bubble 300 yards astern after attack. 5
12-7-41 0840 Dropped 2 depth charges on sonic contact. Results unknown. 2
12-7-41 1020 Dropped 3 depth charges on sonic contact. Observed oil on surface. Dropped 2 more depth charges on sonic contact under oil slick. No further contact. 5
12-7-41 1127 Dropped 4 depth charges on sonic contact. Sighted heavy oil slick on surface after attack. 4
12-8-41 0619 Dropped 5 depth charges on sonic contact. Results unknown. Dropped 4 more charges on sonic contact after circling to verify first attack. 9
12-8-41 0655 Dropped 2 depth charges on sonic contact. Observed heavy oil slick on surface. 2
12-8-41 1349 Dropped 4 depth charges on sonic contact. Results unknown. 4
12-9-41 1158 Dropped 6 depth charges on sonic contact, indicated by smoke bomb from patrol plane. Circled for second attack. Dropped 6 more charges. Contacts were excellent. Large air bubble came to surface. Heavy oil slick in bombed area was seen. Plane also dropped depth charges. 12
12-10-41 0033 Dropped 4 depth charges on sonic contact. Results unknown. 4
12-10-41 1728 Dropped 6 depth charges on sonic contact. Heavy oil on surface 6
12-10-41 2115 Dropped 4 depth charges on sonic contact. Results unknown. 4
12-11-41 1514 Dropped 4 depth charges on sonic contact. Results unknown. 4
12-11-41 1547 Dropped 6 depth charges on sonic contact. Considerable oil on surface. 6
12-11-41 1637 Dropped 6 depth charges on plane indication and sonic contact. Heavy oil slick on surface. 6
12-11-41 1920 Dropped 6 depth charges on sonic contact. Results unknown. 6
12-16-41 Dropped 8 depth charges on sonic contact. Seventh charge brought up a large air bubble accompanied with a quantity of oil. 8
12-17-41 1648 Dropped 8 depth charges on patrol plane indication. Results unknown. 8
12-17-41 2012 Dropped 8 depth charges on sonic contact. Contact was made at 1500 yards. Ranging was not stopped in order to listen for screw noises. Bearing was practically steady. Sound operator reported that it might be a surface ship at 800 yards the ship was 15° wide. Contact was clear and positive. Went ahead full speed. At 200 yards slowed to 15 knots. 10 seconds later dropped 8 depth charges at 4 second intervals. Charges set alternately for 50 and 100 feet. The seventh charge sent up a double column of water in a "V" shape which rose 25 higher than any other column. All charges exploded. No contact could be made after the attack. 8


/signed/
W.W. OUTERBRIDGE



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Dec 2, 2000
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That's a lot of depth charges that were expended. I wonder if they may have been dropping them on sensory shadows and the like. After what happened, it would be understandable that any destroyers on a defensive picket would be a bit trigger happy.
 
T

Trevor William Sturdy

Guest
Hi Jim, I read you're post earlier today and had basically the same thoughts as Mike, maybe a tad trigger happy, jumping at shadows. With good reason I may add. Regards to all our American friends on this 7th day of December.

Did anybody happen to catch this story off the West Australian coast.

http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21598,20875478-948,00.html

Regards.
Trev.
 

Jim Hathaway

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Dec 18, 2004
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Interesting about the rescue vehicle, I had'nt heard about it up here-
I did some volunteer work at the Naval Undersea Museum at Keyport, Washington. One visitor we had was a DSRV crewmember who gave an interesting talk about the craft-
Re December 7th, there were tons of false targets, not just by Ward.
I wonder how many were genuine since there were 5 Type As all making for the mouth of the harbor about the same time.
A good part can be chalked up to post air raid jitters on the part of everyone.
In that environment, I have always questioned Admiral Halsey's decision to fly Enterprise's aircraft off to land before coming in to Pearl Harbor.
After the attack, everyone would have been on edge at the sight of a group of aircraft approaching from the sea-
 
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>>In that environment, I have always questioned Admiral Halsey's decision to fly Enterprise's aircraft off to land before coming in to Pearl Harbor.<<

If I recall correctly, the Enterprise's aircraft were sent off before the attack was known to be underway. Even if not, there would be little point in keeping them aboard since they couldn't really be launched while the ship was tied to the pier. Even if they had enough flight deck to work with, there would be the matter of having enough wind across the deck to do it safely.
 

Jim Hathaway

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Actually the planes were flown off when Enterprise was entering harbor the evening of the 7th, the attack had been over for some time.
Recognition signals had been arrainged, but since Enterprise was to reprovision and leave as soon as possible, not flying aircraft into an installation after undergoing an air attack might have been prudent to avoid the kind of incident that occurred.

http://www.cv6.org/ship/logs/ph/org-vf6-19411207.htm
 
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Thanks for that information. Some of the events strike me as a bit confused. I recall that there was a squadron of B-17's that came in and had problems with "friendly" fire, but wasn't there another group from the Enterprise that went in that morning?

The miscommunication doesn't strike me as unusual. It happens often enough in peacetime. After having been clobbered as they were, it's no wonder the anti-aircraft gunners were predisposed to shoot first and ask questions later.
 

Jim Hathaway

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Hi Michael,
Actually she did launch aircraft to go to Pearl that morning, they arrived about the time the attack began.
An SBD of VS-6 was lost with crew- they reported on radio they were under attack.
BTW, last weekend I got an interesting DVD- an 8 mm to disk transfer of home movies shot by the CO of USS Edsall, an Asiatic Fleet Four Piper.
It was shot in the PI, and on China Station, and aboard ship.
Old, deteriorated, but fascinating!